“The preparation of good food is merely an expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living,” said Dione Lucas, the first female graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. But more than just taste and appearance, we have come to appreciate that part of the food experience has to do with ambience. This does not only pertain to one’s surroundings, however. Rather, the quality of service at a restaurant likewise contributes to the enjoyment of a meal.” (Joy Angelica Subido, “Italianni’s: On the Art of Good Service,” The Phillipine Star)
I remember it well. Memorial Day weekend 2013 will go down in my book as one of the most memorable of national holidays ever. A bit of rain arrived the Thursday before Memorial Day, ushering in some much needed moisture, along with some much miserable humidity. The temperature, though still May, was already indicative of the mercilessly hot summer days to come. As that Thursday evening wore on, our condo became warmer and muggier inside. When Cleo and Rex began to wilt and look as miserable as Phillip and I felt, we finally thought to check the thermostat. Horror of horrors! We discovered that our brand new (only a month old!) HVAC system was malfunctioning!!!! Although the time was nearly midnight, I sent off a politely worded but urgent text message plea for help (because everyone knows that a fifty + year old woman without AC in the summer time goes into crisis mode!) to the owner of the AC business that had installed the system. I hoped to have something done the next day. Early the next day our AC man responded to my text, explaining that although he was out of town for the weekend, he would send one of his guys to see about the system that very day. The next three days were a nightmare of incompetence and irresponsibility on the part of the AC repairman sent to diagnose and fix our new HVAC system. During these three days, we were forced to change our schedules and our plans to wait for a man who didn’t show up – after promising us several times that THIS time he would really show up to fix the problem. All the while we were waiting for someone who didn’t show up as promised, we had to survive without a working AC, in a muggy, hot home with few windows, on a weekend that remained warm and damp. This tale of woe does have a happy ending, however. By 6 pm Saturday night, after having been stood up again by the AC guy who had promised that he would definitely show up by 5 pm, this time FOR SURE, our tempers were about as boiling hot as the inside of our condo felt. Calling the guy did no good, as we knew by experience at that point, so we decided to head for somewhere with a more comfortable climate. We headed for Trudy’s. And at this point our weekend had a joyful turn of events (although I did feel a twinge of guilt that we were leaving Cleo and Rex in the discomfort of their too warm home).
We eat at Trudy’s often. We always eat at the location on Little Texas Ln, since it’s the easiest for us to reach. Although this restaurant doesn’t have an official gluten-free menu, it does have an ingredient list (ask the wait person to see it) so that one can see which dishes have gluten and which do not. The menu actually has a fairly large number of items that are safely gluten-free; I’ve eaten there for several years without having a problem with cross-contamination or having been accidentally glutenized. Now, by the time we reached Trudy’s this Memorial Day weekend Saturday night, quite a line of people waiting for tables had formed outside the restaurant. Having been in a state of unsatisfied waiting for a couple of days by this point, we decided fore-go the wait and eat on the patio. At Trudy’s, the patio is self-seating. A party that doesn’t want to wait for inside seating can just enter the patio and seat itself. Sitting on the patio this particular evening might seem counter-intuitive since we went to Trudy’s to get some relief from our un-air conditioned home; however, the patio at this South Austin location of Trudy’s always seems to be breezy and cool. This night was no different. We chose a table and enjoyed the cool breeze that blew through the area in which we sat.
Nearly as soon as we were seated, a waitress arrived with menus in hand, and took our drink orders. Phillip ordered a special beer of some sort, and I ordered a frozen sangria.
The waitress brought me the gluten-free ingredient list, which I look at every time I go just to be on the safe side, and when she took our order she reassured me – as the wait people at Trudy’s ALWAYS do – that my food would be looked after carefully. We started out with an order of Trudy’s delicious guacamole to go with our chips.
I ordered the Ciro’s Special, without the accompanying tortillas, and substituted refried pinto beans for the borracho beans. This dish is one of my favorites at Trudy’s. The queso is drizzled on the meat and vegetables in just the right amount, so that the dish is neither drowning in queso, nor suffering from too little queso to notice. The meat is tender and flavorful. By the time we finished our meal, we felt relaxed, satisfied, and somewhat pacified.
The reason I chose to review this one particular meal at Trudy’s is that the contrast between the service we consistently receive at Trudy’s and the rude, inept service we received from the AC repairman went a long way toward easing our spirits that evening. The wait people at Trudy’s replace empty glasses with full glasses, even on tables they are not serving. Someone in charge always visits the table to make sure everything is as it should be. Members of the wait staff are personable and friendly: always, without exception. If one’s plate is empty, it doesn’t stay on the table for long. The first wait person passing by who notices the empty plate removes it. We were so relieved to be treated so well that evening, that I thanked our young waitress for making our meal very pleasant. Without going into detail, I explained to her that we had experienced a difficult weekend up to that point, but that her cheerful demeanor and eager service had brightened our evening. She told me that she loves working with people, and that she is in college majoring in nursing so that she can work with people when she graduates. I believe she will do very well as a nurse!
(My AC story has a happy ending, too. The owner of the local AC company which installed our HVAC system apologized for his repairman and the inconvenience we suffered that weekend. He diagnosed the system and fixed it himself. He still contacts me from time to time to make sure it’s working as it should. He’s a nice guy. We will recommend his company to others.)